First, I want to say that the reason I have not posted in a few weeks is because I was in Prague! The next post will explain what I was doing and an idea for a Design Thinking Project.
Second, let's talk about storytelling. A local design agency, Laut Design, was founded by a man named Mike Laut. I have seen him speak a few times to a group of teachers, and each time he has said storytelling is the most important aspect of Design Thinking. I agree!
What do I mean by storytelling? Great question!
Storytelling is a student's ability to create a narrative. It can be creative, like writing a story, but with Design Thinking it is often about creating a compelling narrative surrounding the product, solution, or system developed by the person or team of designers. Knowing how to tell a story that engages people and captivates them is important, and the act of doing it is not easy.
Elon Musk is surprisingly good at it despite the fact that his public speaking skills are not necessarily the best. He is kind of awkward, makes jokes that nobody laughs at, and says um a lot. But, he knows how to tell a story about his company and their products. In Justin Bariso's article on INC.com, called What You Can Learn From Elon Musk's Presentation Style (It's Not What You Think) he points toward Musk's authenticity and passion. Musk is authentic and passionate about the work Tesla does, so when he speaks he doesn't seem like he is trying to sell anyone snake oil. He is selling ideas that are exciting, and he believes in those ideas.
Storytelling can be found in sales and marketing, but sometimes storytelling is used to weave a story of lies or half truths to make something bad or mediocre seem amazing. That is not the type of storytelling I am talking about, but it is definitely something that can be associated with what I am talking about. We all know those people we describe as charming but in a sort of sleazy way where it seems like they are always trying to get you to agree to something you don't want to do. Those people who come off a little arrogant and aggressive. Sales and marketing does not have to be like that, and we should be teaching our students that part of creating a strong story is through passion and authenticity.
There is another article by Jessica Stillman on INC.com called 5 Steps to Making Pitches Like Elon Musk as well as a piece on Medium.com from Andy Raskin that describes the structure of an Elon Musk pitch that has served him so well in the past.
The Steps in both pieces are:
Name the Enemy
Explain Why Now
Show the Promised Land
Identify and Overcome Obstacles
Win Over with Evidence
If I were going to give a presentation about Design Thinking to a group of teachers (something I will actually be doing in October!), I might initially need to convince the attendees that teaching DT is important and worthwhile. One way I could do that is to identify the enemy as a bored disengaged student who struggles to solve his or her own problems. A student whose creativity has become a little rusty. A student who is not empowered to be a creator. Those are not the types of students we want to teach, and we need to do everything in our power to help those types of students change. We want our students to be empowered, innovative, and able to be independent. Design Thinking does that. Just imagine a classroom full of students who find and solve problems, are creative, and love learning. They are engaged and active participants in their learning. Imagine all that a teacher could get done in a classroom like that one!
Of course, there will be struggles, it can be chaotic at times, hard to keep the students motivated, and at first it can be hard for the students to adjust to this new type of learning. Sometimes parents won't understand, other faculty members, maybe even administration, but if teachers do what they do best and educate those parts of the community, they will come around and see the light. This teaching approach does not have to ignore standards and benchmarks, instead, it should embrace them and use this method to dive deeper into those standards.
The last part is evidence, some of the evidence is anecdotal from my own experiences, but there are definitely studies out there from universities that I have found that show this stuff is real and it is effective and beneficial for a students learning.
The Elon Musk structure is helpful in crafting a narrative around an idea to help people understand and be engaged. It can also be nice as a scaffold to help students use it as a skeleton to craft their own presentations and other methods of sharing. It should not be taught as the only way to create a strong presentation, but instead, one way that has been used by a very effective storyteller. There are other ways, and we should always strive to make our presentations our own to highlight our own passions and authenticity.
I think it is worth teaching students that part of Design Thinking should be storytelling. Students should be able to develop a product, solution, or system, and know how to effectively share it with a community regardless of how big or small. Students need to have something they are passionate about, so they can be authentic. And, with some guidance on how to structure their sharing, they will create a compelling narrative.
Brandon Bogumil is a teacher of Design Thinking, Problem-Solving, and Coding. He is also very passionate about Project Based Learning. He hopes that his experiences will help you learn about these ideas and grow into a beautiful butterfly! Thank you Brian Best for my banner and logo and for writing funny things!